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Among the riches of the library of the British Museum is a manuscript, (Cotton, Tiberius A. ij.) of the highest interest. It contains a Latin version of the four Gospels and the tradition is, that it originally belonged to K. Athelstan, and is the identical copy, upon which, for several centuries, the kings of England took the coronation-oath. A full account of the volume, with the evidence in its favour, has been ably drawn up and published by Mr. Holmes: I cannot say the proof is very satisfactory; but one fact is certain, that, in consequence of its renown at that time, and after some enquiry (we must conclude) into its history, this book was used at the coronation of Charles I.25 I think there is clear evidence, that in the 15th and 16th centuries, the coronation-oath was not taken, as perhaps very anciently, and now in modern days, only upon the Holy Evangelists. The English MS. Order, which I have before mentioned, thus directs. "Moreovir the kyng shall make his ooth, in his co
22 Matt. Paris. Hist. Angl. p. May, 1838.
23 Serm. in dedicatione eccle
25 Ellis, Original Letters. vol. 1. p. 214.
26 See above, p. xxxiv, note 10.
ronacion vpon the sacrament of the auter, laide vpon the high awter of the chirche before the people." So the "Devyse" for Henry VIII. all these things and euery of theym, I, Henry, King of Englande, promytte and conferme to kepe and obserue, so helpe me God, and thise holy Euangelists by me bodily touched vppon this hooly awter.' And then the king shall ryse vp of his chayer, and by the seid bisshoppes of Exetour and Ely shall be ledde to the highe Aulter. Wher he shall make a solempne oth vppon the sacrament leyde vpon the same aulter, in the sight of all the people, to observe all the premisses." And once more; in the order of the council, cited above, regarding the coronation of Edward VI., we find both "the sacrament" and "the book" mentioned. "Then shall the king rise out of his chair, and by them that before assisted him, be led to the high altar, where he shall make a solemn oath upon the sacrament, laid upon the said altar, in the sight of all the people, to observe the premisses; and laying his hand again on the book, shall say; etc."
This royal oath, in whatever sense the reader may
27 Burnet: Hist. Reform. Records. Part II. Book. 1. No. 4. The reader will observe that the order of swearing is contrary to that appointed for Henry VIII.
I shall place in a note some examples of the ancient oath, both of the king, and of the people and clergy. For the Anglosaxon version of K. Ethelred's oath I must refer the reader to the Cotton MS. B. xiij. in which it is extant, or to the preface to
Hickes' Inst. Anglo-Saxonicæ, where it is printed.
The French oath of K. Edward III. is as follows; from Rymer : "Petit. Volez vous graunter et gardez, et par vostre serment confirmer, au poeple d'Engleterre les leys et les custumes à eux grauntees par les aunciens roys d'Engleterre voz predecessours, droitures et devotz a Dieu, et nomeement les leys, les coutumes, et les franchises grauntez au cler
choose to regard the term, must have been "a corporal oath." From the extracts below it will be seen
ge, et au poeple, par le glorious roy Seint Edward vestre predecessour?
"Respons. Jeo les grante et promette.
"Petit. Sire, garderez vouz a Dieu et seint Eglise, et au clerge et au poeple, pees et acord en Dieu entierment, selonc vostre poair?
"Respons. Jeo les garderai. "Petit. Sire, freez vous faire en touz voz jugements ovele et droit justice et discretion, en misericorde et verite, a vostre poair? "Respons. Jeo les frai.
"Petit. Sire, grauntez vouz a tenir et garder les leys et les custumes dreitureles, les quiels la communaute de vostre roialme aura esleu, et les defendrez et afforterez al honure de Dieu, a vostre poair?
"Respons. Jeo les graunte et promette." Fœdera. tom. 2. pars. 2. p. 172.
I extract also the form of the oath as it is appointed in English, to be taken, according to the "Devyse" for Henry VIII. And with this, generally, agrees the "Order" in the other English MS. 285.
"The sermon ended, if any such be, the cardynall and the kyng that is to be corowned so sittyng as is abouesayd, the car
dynall with an open and distincte voyce, shall aske the king vndre this forme:
'Will ye graunte and kepe to the people of England, the lawes and the custumes to theym, as of old tyme rightfull and deuoute kings graunted, and the same ratefye and conserue by your othe, and the spirituall lawes, custumes, and libertees graunted to the clergy and people by your noble predecessor and glorious kyng Seint Edward?'
"The king shall answer, 'I graunte and promytte.'
"And when the kyng before all the people hath promytted truly to graunte and kepe all the premysses, Then shall the seid cardynall open vnto hym the speciall Articles, whereunto the kyng shall be sworn: the same cardynall seyng as foloweth :
Ye shall kepe after your strength and power to the Church of God, to the clergy and the people, hoole pees and goodely concorde.'
"The kyng shall aunswer: I shall kepe.'
"Ye shall make to be done after your strength and power equall and rightfull justice in all your Domes and Jugements, and discrecion with mercy and trouthe.
that the chief authorities all refer this "corporal oath" to the touching of the consecrated host, or the corporal within which it was placed.28 But in thus limit
kel as falleth to me for my temporaltees, I shall be obeissant: so help me God, and all his halwes. "Pour les serves. temporel. Homage. I become yowr liege man of lif and of leme, and erthely worship, feithe, and trowth, shall bere to yow, ayeins al maner of men y' may lieue and deye. So
"The kyng shall aunswer: 'I help me God, and all his halwes.' graunte and promytte.""
In the Cotton MS. Vespasian. C. xiv. is a copy of the oaths of fealty and homage to be taken by the spiritualty and temporalty of the realm; in French and English, of the latter end of the 14th century, the date of the Liber Regalis. I extract the English Form.
"Pour les Dames. Homage. 'I do yow homage, liege, and faith, trowth and erthely worship, y shall bere to yow, a fore all other creatures, for ye landes and tenements the whiche I clayme to hold of yow my liege lord. So help me God, and all his halwes.'"
"The king shall answer: 'I shall do.'
"Do ye graunte the rightfull lawes and custumes to be holden, and promytte after your strength and power such lawes, as to the honor of God shall be chosen by your people, by you to be strengthed and defended."
"Pour les seigneurs espirituels. Foiaultee. 'I shall be trewe and feythefull, and feith and trowth shall bere to yow our liege lord, ye kyng of England, and to yowre heires, kynges of England, of erthely worship, for to leue and deye ayeins all maner folc, and * * * * shalle be entendant to yowr nedis aftir my and kepe connyng and power, your conseil, and trewly knowlech and do the seruices due of the temporaltees of my Bisshopricke or Abbaye of N. whiche I clayme for to hold of yow, and to yow and to yowr comaundements as my
28 Johnson (Todd's edition) cites Brand's popular antiquities. "The phrase corporal oath is supposed to have been derived— not from the touching of the New Testament, or the bodily act of kissing it, but from the ancient use of touching the corporale, or cloth which covered the consecrated elements."
Richardson, in his very valuable dictionary, first cites Junius : Corporale, quo Domini corpus, i, panem consecratum tegebant," and adds "corporal oath, from the custom of touching this corporal."
ing the meaning of it, they cannot but be in error, as may be proved from many passages in the mediæval English writers. For example, the following from Thorn's chronicle. "Forma fidelitatis facienda. Ego N. de C. juro ad hæc sancta Dei evangelia præstito corporaliter sacramento, quod fidelis ero, etc."29 This may not be so clear as other examples: viz.: “Et hii omnes et singuli recognoscebant eundem ordinarium,
et ipso instanti sponte canonicam obedientiam in scriptis, et inspectis sacrosanctis evangeliis eidem abbati corporaliter fecerunt." 30 Once more, the case of a certain vicar of Faversham, who refused to perform his duty, "post canonicam obedientiam pro vicaria sua ad sancta Dei evangelia corporaliter præstitam."
Nor are there wanting numerous examples in the chronicles of the other form of taking the "corporal oath." I quote two of these from Walsingham. "Celebrata solemni missa, dictoque ter Agnus Dei, adjecto Dona nobis pacem, dictus Carolus in præsentia prædictorum et aliorum plurium, dexteram super patenam, cum corpore dominico, et lævam super missale
29 In Script. x. Tom. 2. p.
30 Ibid. p. 1976. Upon "inspectis sacrosanctis evangeliis" it is well to quote Ducange: "id est, non tactis, sed coram ipsis, quemadmodum jurare solebant episcopi et sacerdotes: nam episcopi supra sacra jurare vetantur, in concilio Meldensi, an. 845." I cite also the following from the same author: "Per evangelia juraturos manus prius abluisse ex Chrysostomo refert
Suicerus in Thesauro eccles. v. Evayyέλov, ubi antiquum et usitatum per proposita evangelia jurandi morem probat ex Palladio ad Lausum. etc." Glossarium. v. Jurare inspectis sacrosanctis."
31 Script. x. tom. 2. p. 1979. To these I may add a foreign constitution cited by Mr. Dansey, in his book on Rural Deans. p. 135. "Tactis corporaliter sacrosanctis evangeliis in publico corporaliter subeant sacramenta." Const. Sicula. L. 1. tit. lix.